Lisa is a 2D RPG set after an apocalyptic event that destroyed all the females. We play as a drug addict named Brad that stumbles across a baby one day and to his surprise it is a girl. Brad, along with two friends decide to raise and protect that baby which they name “Buddy” to keep her safe from the outside world. As you can imagine things eventually go wrong, she is kidnapped and you are off to save her. One of the first things you may notice is that the game is locked in a 4:3 ration annoyingly enough and there is no way to stretch it. This game has a very strange sense of humor and nearly everyone you meet is completely insane, making it so you never know who is going to try to murder or rob you and who is friendly. Along your journey you will meet a ton of potential party members and be able to take up to three with you at any one time.
Combat is a pretty normal ordeal that has you slugging it out in a turn based duel with your foes. You will be able to pick from skills, items or a chance to escape from battle. It is a pretty typical system with one of the few undue things about it being a 5 button input when you select to attack that allows you to pull off special moves. You can pull off these moves by clicking on the skill menu as well so it is pretty pointless. Brad is a junkie addicted to a drug called joy so if you don’t take some every once in a while you will have a withdrawal effect in combat that seriously cripples his ability to fight. Winning a battle can grant you a multitude of items like cigarettes to heal poison and magazines which is the currency for the game. If you have ever played an RPG there is nothing really all that different here other than how insanely weird this game is and deciding how much you value yourself over those fighting by your side.
The world of Lisa is as cruel and violent as it is weird making you have to make some pretty difficult decisions such as losing an arm making you lose your sweet hadouken skill as well as making you weaker or sacrificing a friend in your stead. It sounds like a hard decision but the companions in this game are so numerous and outlandishly insane that you’ll be missing their ultimately replaceable skill set more than anything. It’s never an easy decision to make however and trying to resist your captors can lead to more disastrous results. Losing tons of your party members is nearly unavoidable since even during non-scripted events they can get kidnapped and murdered. If they fall in battle you can simply go rest in an inn or by a campfire to heal them. Resting by random campfires is as very risky gamble with someone possibly getting kidnapped, your party being poisoned by a random spider, your stuff can get stolen and much more I’m sure but at that point I’d sooner walk all the way back to the inn than find out what other nasty surprises lay in wait.
It is no doubt a very dark game that is masked by its weird “humor”. I’m hesitant to call it humor since very rarely is it funny and relies more on insane randomness that will have you wondering what “just happened?” from beginning to end. Nothing seems to make a lick of sense and you start questioning if it is real or if it’s a hallucination in Brad’s drug filled mind. In that regard Lisa does an excellent job as you will never have enough time to plant your feet on the ground and feel like you understand this world. It’s not an easy game either, if you have been robbed of all your belongings don’t expect it to pull back any punches, your decisions have consequences and even the snowmen want to kill you. Yes there are snowmen in the desert and that may be one of the least weird things about this title. To save the game you must find a crow and if you pick hard mode in the beginning of the game it will explode once used. Hard mode really should not be attempted your first time playing Lisa since it is difficult and unfair to begin with.
When not in combat you are free to explore the environments which are pretty open ended though you ultimately have to visit most locations nonetheless. There are no maps, the level design is really confusing and there are no reminders to what you are meant to do so it’s best to make time for when you play Lisa as playing it a bit one day and a bit another day can easily get confusing. You can jump up small ledges and objects giving it a bit more variety than simply walking left or right. Rather early in the game you will unlock a bike that allows you to move much faster and jump from higher locations without taking damage. Be very careful though as there are endless pits all over the place and you can easily ride right into your doom if you are not paying attention. Riding a small red bike too fast was the lead cause of death for me in a world full of violent psychopaths as sad as that may sound.
This game only features few random battles in certain caves and in tall grass. You can grind for magazines and items though it will take a very long time as well as making it sting much worse when you get robbed again. Scattered around the world are stores, bars and vendors where you can exchange your magazines for their services. A risky thing to purchase is equipment for your party since they die off so rapidly, making them a potentially really bad investments no matter how much it may help you out in combat. Lisa is all about potential risk and rewards. The strange thing is that I’ve never felt I was having fun playing this game but for some reason felt compelled to keep going. It can be frustrating to be so helpless as you are repeatedly mugged, beaten and humiliated but it is a far more effective method of making you feel like the world is dangerous instead of simply being told it is, grind a bit and becoming the unstoppable king of the world like in most other RPGs these days. Sadly Brad’s motivation of rescuing Buddy is something we the player most likely will not care about since she does not say a single thing before being kidnapped and all we had to base her character around is a short cutscene.
There is no voice acting and everything is told via text. Strangely enough the text is slightly cut off in the corners of the speech bubbles and while it’s nothing gamebreaking it never stopped being annoying. Graphics are nothing special but it does its job decently to convey all the weird or disturbing things like mutants, someone’s head being bashed in and random rave parties. The real star of the show here has got to be the great soundtrack. It is both weird and catchy enough to make you stay in an area for a bit longer just to listen to it. Lisa is not a title I’d recommend for those that like to feel in control or even understand what is going on while playing video games but for those that can enjoy a game that kicks them when they are down and can handle dark humor. As twisted as this game is it always has an almost surreal type of wackiness such as your childhood bully riding around on a small deer and proceeds to murder your friend or a random body building club with people bench pressing refrigerators. While not a fun game it is without a doubt a very strange and brutal experience that you will not likely find anywhere else.